Getting paid for what you know, not what you do

Being a business owner is hard. It’s fun, too. And challenging. And exciting. And frustrating. And a bit of a roller coaster.

Whether you’re the business owner or the consumer, you know that price is one of the most talked about aspects of every product or service. Business owners have to price everything they sell, and, obviously, consumers have to pay for everything they buy.

In service-based industries, pricing is one complicated little big pickle! I’m sure it’s no piece of cake in product-based businesses…but there’s something about putting a price tag on something (a physical tag on a shirt, printing the price on a menu, setting the price in an online store) that just screams, “this is not a negotiation!”

Get Paid for What you Know, not what you do!  |

With service-based businesses, especially those where you don’t pay for your services via a 100% automated online shopping cart, pricing seems to be perceived as something that is negotiable. OK, I’ll try not to generalize. It has been our opinion/experience that many people perceive our pricing as negotiable. There, was that better (and more P.C.)?

But, after hearing some seriously wise words from the 23-year-old plumber who came to repair my hot water heater last week, my mindset about pricing has officially been changed! I’ll share his tidbit of wisdom below, but first, let’s look at some of the services that aren’t typically viewed as negotiable. Meaning, you see the price, make your decision of whether you’ll buy it or not, then you buy it…or you don’t. You aren’t asking how much it costs or what it includes (because it’s clearly listed and clearly defined) and you’re not wheeling and dealing with the service or product provider.

  • Example #1: You need to sign up for web hosting, so you go to to the host’s website, click the appropriate buttons, enter in your credit card information, and voila. Similar to signing up for cable or internet, you can SOMETIMES speak to a representative to work out some sort of deal, but this is a whole different ball game since these (web hosts and cable/internet companies) are much bigger players in the service-providing world. And, you’re likely to pay for whatever “deal” you get by being locked in to a really long contract or signing up for services you don’t even need.
  • Example #2: You want to purchase a coaching package that includes three, one-hour sessions with a business coach. You either pay via the checkout button on the coach’s website or he/she sends you an invoice. You have your three sessions (each one sticking to its one-hour time limit), and that’s it…until you sign up for more.
  • Example #3: You find a shirt you love online, so you click the Add to Cart button, enter in your payment information, and a few days later, that softness arrives in your mailbox.
  • Example #4: You need a dress for a party. You head to the mall, find the perfect ensemble, pay the price on the tag, and head home to get ready. If you don’t find anything you like or the prices are too high, you head home and make-do with what you have until you have the funds to go back and get that sequinned number you were eyeing.
  • Example #5: It’s dinner time! You go to a restaurant, order your food and beverages, get the bill, and pay it. If something was too expensive for your budget, you simply didn’t order it. OR, if your budget is in eat-all-meals-at-home mode, then you don’t go out at all.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all sales went so smoothly? They DO go that smoothly in some businesses (like the ones above). And now I have been reminded that they can go smoothly and without stressful negotiations that seem to undermine our value in ours, too.

A story interjection, if I may:
Many times, we are asked to do small jobs for our clients. Sometimes those jobs take us 5 minutes, sometimes they take 5 hours. It all depends on the task(s) and what all is involved. The challenge we face nearly every time it only takes us 5 minutes (or 10 or 30) is if we should charge for a full hour. {Confession: Most of this issue is on us and our mindset…but sometimes it has come up with clients in some way or another.}

We have even taken steps to help push us to do this by clearly indicating a one-hour minimum for all jobs. But, when something takes 5 minutes for us to complete, it doesn’t always feel right to charge for the full hour. Many times, it’s based on the fear that our clients might throw a fit if we charge them for the full hour (when, in most cases, they won’t…and haven’t).

But see, that’s the thing. The client is hiring US. The client doesn’t want to do the task or doesn’t know how. We want to AND we know how. We’ve invested the time (and money) to learn how. So, something that takes us 5 minutes really took us hours, weeks, months or years to learn and practice. We don’t do it fast because it’s easy, we do it fast because we’ve mastered it.

Are you ready for those wise words from my plumber?

He was actually the second plumber who came out to assess the issue with my water heater. The company that came the day before wanted to charge me $1,000-$2,000 to either repair the water heater or replace it. When he came to my house, it took him 5 minutes to figure out and fix the problem.

He charged me $120 ($49 trip charge + labor). When I inquired about the fee (simply so I could know what I was being charged for beyond the standard trip charge), he told me and then said this:

“I don’t get paid for what I do, I get paid for what I know.”

WOW! I told him how much that statement resonated with us and how much we appreciated and valued his knowledge. He fixed the problem, saved me lots of money, and his wise words will help us feel more confident about charging appropriately for our services and feeling valued. Thank you, Rafael!

Our new mantra: It’s not about what you do, it’s about what you know!

So – how’s your money mindset when it comes to charging for your services?

About Stefani

Hi there, I’m Stefani Harris, co-founder of The Essential Website. We design and code WordPress websites for ready-to-grow businesses and bloggers, but we do so much more! We are all about helping our clients reach their business goals and see results! I am most passionate about inspiring people to pursue their dreams and to just START! If you can dream it, you can do it! I’m also a big-time dog lover + yoga and fitness instructor.


  1. Tamara on June 20, 2017 at 9:29 am

    What a mindset shift! Thanks for sharing this story. You are completely spot on .

    • Janet on June 20, 2017 at 12:37 pm

      It’s great isn’t it?! Thanks Tamara!

  2. Jason on June 14, 2018 at 10:16 am

    Very good topic and read. Thank you so much for discussing this common issue in business and sharing this.

    • Stefani and Janet on June 14, 2018 at 1:23 pm

      Thank you, Jason! 🙂

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